The Appeal of Wednesday Addams
Ever since the adaptations started coming out from the 1960’s to this day, The Addams Family kept gaining in popularity and their audience grew throughout the years. It wasn’t just the humor and the weird atmosphere that got people hooked, it was just how original, unusual and extraordinary the characters and their lore were at the time. They were a stark contrast with practically everything that was ordinary on their first appearance—the Addams family was the definition of ‘unordinary’, ‘weird’ and ‘peculiar’. To this day, they still remain odd, but are still very much loved.
Though The Addams Family went through several reruns over the years, from movie adaptations to animated ones, not all the characters have been subjected to drastic changes personality wise to match the general state of mind of the world. Their personalities, the atmosphere they bring around themselves and other ‘normal’ people are features that make them quite unique in the fans’ eyes. Their own quirks are what set them all apart from the rest of the world, but also from each other: while Gomez and Morticia seem to find odd joy in reveling about their shared ‘unhappiness’ although they’re clearly happy together could be quite puzzling, their daughter Wednesday’s personality could be perceived as even more… off-putting. After all, Wednesday Addams’ character just isn’t the typical and conventional female character that could be found in movies, TV shows, comics, cartoons and other pieces of media.
Wednesday Addams can be seen as the epitome of ‘unconventional’. One of the most unconventional female characters there is, because she checks all the boxes and is the opposite of ordinary. Depicted as cute and sweet-natured because of her young age, she serves as foil to her parents’ weirdness, but when her favorite hobby is raising spiders as pets instead cats, dogs or hamsters, it is quite baffling. When she also indulges in morbid activities that would scare other children to death, drive them away or disturb adults who aren’t Addams, such as electrifying her brother Pugsley in an electric chair in the 1991 movie or trying to guillotine her youngest brother Pubert in the 1993 sequel, Wednesday is quite… terrifying. But somehow, her near sociopathy coupled with her appearance as a young girl makes her strangely endearing. And what’s endearing to the public is precious.
But really… what actually constitutes Wednesday Addams’ appeal that still seems to be relevant to this day, despite the creation of plentiful other female characters that may be deemed just as good and entertaining as the adorable, yet frightening, Wednesday? What actually does set her apart from different female characters just as unconventional as she is?
‘Simple and Cute’ Sometimes Trumps ‘Complex’ & Vice Versa
Upon analyzing Wednesday Addams from all angles in the earlier adaptations, her character’s personality is depicted as one of the most simple there could be. Despite having a rather disturbing hobby that includes raising unconventional pets and owning a headless doll of Marie-Antoinette (which is rather interesting, considering this was the exact same way she died. Could she be fascinated by the guillotine and think of it as a form of art?) that Pugsley guillotines per her request, Wednesday actually sounds quite… ‘normal’. As normal as she could be while being born in the strangest family there could ever be in the world. In fact, her earlier version of the 1960’s sounds like the least unconventional and weird character out of all the Addamses. Her own quirks don’t measure up to her parents’ and brother’s—maybe it was because she was the youngest of the family and that her acting just like them at only age six would be frowned upon and would turn people off right away?
The fact that Pugsley sees no problem in beheading dolls in the 1960’s adaptation and that disturbing trait was never abandoned in order to keep him in character in later adaptations was already controversial at best. It would be incredibly concerning in a normal environment and in any ordinary family, but considering how the Addamses were all brought up and their nature, Pugsley was just being in character. So was Wednesday’s version from the later adaptations. Both children reflected the context of their environment and would have actually felt out of place, had they been depicted as similar to ‘normal children’ who didn’t have the same upbringing.
Children are meant to represent innocence, purity and youth. They reflect their environment and upbringing, like a mirror. And although Wednesday was born in the most unordinary family, stripping her away of these attributes could have severely dampened her character. So the adaptation of the 1960’s, though it still meant to introduce the Addams Family as the representation of ‘pure weirdness’, may have had to use one of the children as foil and balance. Mixing the attributes of a child with Wednesday’s hobby of raising spiders and owning a headless doll of Marie-Antoinette turned out to be a way to create this balance between ‘normal’ and ‘weird’; since Wednesday was only six in the adaptation of the 1960’s, she retained her ‘simple and cute’ persona that could be seen as endearing despite having questionable hobbies. The headless dolls and spiders would still raise doubt and questions, but the cute and sweet personality she has still made her appear more normal than the rest of the family. Lisa Loring’s interpretation of this version of Wednesday embodied this special persona and its mildly weird quirks; compared to Morticia, Gomez and Pugsley, this Wednesday Addams is easily the most normal out of the bunch. She’s a little girl being and acting like a little girl. And yet, she can still be considered slightly unconventional as a child.
Lisa Loring’s interpretation embraced simplicity in such a way that it easily made Wednesday the favorite out of all the Addamses. It was that particular simplicity among the weirdness shown by every other member of the family that put the spotlight on Wednesday, as it made the audience flock to her. ‘Simple and cute’ can sometimes trump ‘complex’ in a character’s case, whether they’re male or female. For example, a comparison can be established between two unconventional female characters that have merit and are loved because of their personalities. As different as they are both presented and interpreted in their adaptations, the idea of comparing these two characters might help in understanding one’s appeal in this day and age among all other female protagonists. Lisa Loring’s interpretation of Wednesday Addams showed this balance between ‘normal’ and ‘weird’ by being sweet, probably because her character was meant to feel like the most normal out of the bunch.
Compared to Pugsley, who’s louder, so much more enthusiastic and more outgoing with his quirks, the 1960’s version of Wednesday Addams is almost too normal for their environment. She smiles, she’s cute, she’s so sweet that it can lead people to wonder if she really is Gomez and Morticia’s child. Her cuteness and simplicity made her appear and feel too normal, despite her headless dolls and pet spiders.
Whereas Wednesday Addams is easily analyzed as ‘simple and cute’, Lisbeth Salander’s character can be categorized as ‘complex’; the differences between her and Wednesday are just too big to ignore, as both are unconventional in their own rights and way. The late Stieg Larsson created a female protagonist that defies the norm in the Millenium series of books in every category. Lisbeth can be seen as edgy, but her being socially outcast, her flaunting of social norms, her erratic demeanor and understandable acts of violence, gothic style, tattoos and facial jewelry intrigue people even more. In a certain group of people, she certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed, as she’d be the most socially unapproachable person. Noomi Rapace’s interpretation of Lisbeth Salander in the first Millenium movie was an excellent visual of her descriptive appearance in the book, because she is meant to surprise and catch off guard as an unconventional protagonist who defies the norm.
Lisbeth’s personality is also another factor to take in, given that is one of the main things that makes her different from Wednesday. Rather closed off, introverted and extremely reserved due to a traumatic upbringing, she doesn’t form bonds so easily. Making friends is extremely hard for her. She, as a matter of fact, isn’t easy at all. She’s emotionally and mentally damaged, but manages. Earning her trust would take a lot of time and patience—which was what Mikael Blomkvist has done. She has morals as well and stands for justice (or her kind of justice), demonstrated by the fact that she bested her tutor and rapist Nils Bjurman by filming him having his way with her whilst she was restrained, taking revenge with torture and tattooing the truth about him on his stomach. It had been vicious, but justified; the fact that Lisbeth didn’t take the tempting opportunity to kill him for what he’s done to her, when she definitely could have, highlights her firm stand about domestic violence perpetrated against women.
But despite her issues, she does try to live, as it was shown in the first movie adaptation thanks to Noomi Rapace’s interpretation. She does have few friends she came to trust over time. Mikael Blomkvist’s character is one of the very few whom she gets close to and allows to get close to her. She even had a brief relationship with him, though it had taken time to build up because of her demons. And this is actually encouraging for someone like Lisbeth, considering the awful background she has.
With this small breakdown of Lisbeth Salander’s character, she and Wednesday only share one trait—their unconventionality. But that’s where the similarities stop, as shown in the movie adaptations for both characters. The differences between them stem from the opposite childhoods they had; while Wednesday’s family sure is the epitome of weird, there’s no sign of abuse and they were reveling in their ‘unhappiness’ (which is their version of happiness). Lisbeth nearly drowned in the abusive family she was born in, due to her father’s sick nature, and got out severely damaged to the core. As fascinating as she is despite her horrific background because she has exceptional qualities and hasn’t turned evil, sometimes ‘cute and simple’ trumps ‘complex’ for valid reasons.
It might stem from the fact that Wednesday’s character is a child that people can follow throughout all movie adaptations, depicted as this cute little girl wearing pigtails. She looks innocent, but doesn’t try to hide her personality that must have been influenced by the unordinary upbringing, although Wednesday was never abused like Lisbeth was. Child Wednesday is happy throughout the movie adaptations in her own way, adult Lisbeth is… managing. Their stories are just too different at this point. Lisbeth’s story starts when she’s established as an adult, still damaged but going forward, and Wednesday’s keeps on going as a child. The takes on the two characters would be just as different, despite the common unconventionality they share.
Some people would prefer Lisbeth over Wednesday, others would favor Wednesday over Lisbeth. And both characters are fine the way they were created and portrayed in the adaptations, which is why people love them. No need to change them.
Psychologically Connecting with Wednesday
Whenever a movie or a book is being released, what people are looking for is a plot that is both entertaining, logical and original. If the story is engaging, this is already a good thing, but what would be even better? If the characters were just as fascinating as the story and in tune with the themes used by the storytellers. The construction of a character depends of the author’s perception of them, how they actually fit in the universe and lore they’ve come up with, and how they get to develop and evolve.
While the plots for the Addams Family are mainly family life-driven with some interesting adventures on the side with other characters, being able to focus on the main ones in order to understand them more is an important aspect of any story. Since they were some of the most unconventional fictional characters ever created, each member of the Addams must have been created with a specific goal in mind.
What drives them to be the way they are portrayed? What compels them to be so unconventional and abnormal? How are they able to think and live the complete opposite way of all ordinary people and revel in their daily life? How do they manage to strike us psychologically and emotionally speaking?
With Wednesday’s character, the changes were very surprising when the movies from the 90s came out. She went from being and acting as the sweet-natured girl who seems harmless and so adorable to this darker and sociopathic personality that makes her stand out even more in the family. In fact, the calm and almost phlegmatic front she always shows might actually hide multi-faceted sides that would never be observed in a child. Just being stared at by these dark, unblinking eyes would either get anyone uncomfortable or extremely curious, because there’s no real way to know or guess what Wednesday might be thinking. Interestingly enough, as Christina Ricci’s version is more comic-accurate, her aged up character somehow gains more depth with these tendencies; while Wednesday still is a little girl, she manages to spark intrigue in the viewer’s mind. Her behavior and her manners make her both hard to read and too intriguing, which is already enough to have people curious about her.
Wednesday Addams as a child seems cloaked in mystery, a dark one that is in line with the whole Addams Family. Despite the movies from the 1990s painting her in a new light and making her more pronounced, she still seems so… unattainable. The 1990s version of her character is enticing, especially because of these sociopathic tendencies that make her shine. She seemed to have evolved so much and so rapidly that it sounds like viewers have missed important parts of her childhood. Smarter and more observant than she’d let anybody think, the fact that she doesn’t reveal much sparks some desire to learn more about Wednesday Addams. Is Wednesday Addams really a child? Because she sure doesn’t act like one sometimes…
Wanting to know more about her thought process might actually help people in connecting with her character more easily. Psychologically and, probably, emotionally speaking. Although, unraveling Wednesday might come with unpleasant results: some characters like her might be better off with mystery still shrouding them, which is one of the reasons people like them. Because they don’t know much besides her sociopathic tendencies, what she already shows in the movies may be more than enough. Christina Ricci’s portrayal helps in appealing to her, because of this unconventionality she exudes so easily.
Other characters that have been created are sometimes better off the way they already are without having origins or being explained, because people love and adore them the way they are. In their eyes, they’re perfect. Joker, as extremely insane and despicable as he is for all his actions in the Batman comics, movies, animated movies and video games, is perfect the way he is. People manage to connect with him, understand him no matter how utterly insane he is, because what he shows through crazed-fueled actions and words is more than enough. Yet, as insane and overwhelming as he is, Joker is a complex character that is very well-written and never misses to leave a mark, on everyone. Does he need to have origins so his fans can psychologically and emotionally connect more with his character’s mindset? Not necessarily. His lack of identity in many issues and movies is part of his mystery – part of the reason why fans love him and don’t care about his origins. It might destroy the image that people have of him and his character might lose its incredible appeal.
It might be the same with Wednesday Addams’ character. Because she’s so unattainable as a child with this phlegmatic, calculating and observant front, the mystery she’s shrouded in defines her appeal. People want to know more about her because the 1990s movie adaptations don’t seem to show much, yet make viewers even more curious. Wednesday’s character is thus open to more development and depth, without having to understand how and why she came to be this sociopathic so soon in her life. Just like Joker, isn’t she fine the way she is?
Shall the Dark Personality Fade?
In more recent adaptations of The Addams Family, a noticeable change in Wednesday’s personality could be observed in the 1991 movie adaptation and this one could actually be considered as ‘drastic’. While Wednesday was less weird than her parents and older brother Pugsley in the earlier adaptations, she’s never displayed tendencies that are near sociopathic; she became darker in the 1991 movie, which is seen through Christina Ricci’s interpretation of Wednesday. This is, apparently, a more comic-accurate version of Wednesday Addams in the 1991 movie adaptation and its sequel Addams Family Values (1993). Would it be safe to assume that the darker version of the character could have shocked the society of the 1960’s back then? Probably. After all, a malevolent child with sociopathic tendencies would scare off potential watchers and wouldn’t be as loved as she is in this day and age. Lisa Loring’s interpretation of Wednesday sure helped people in warming up to her, until the darker and comic-accurate version could be played by Christina Ricci.
Wednesday’s popularity might be the reason she’s earned an oncoming show on Netflix with Jenna Ortega interpreting her, as a grown-up. The premise sounds interesting enough: a teen Wednesday Addams will be attending high school to ‘master her psychic powers’, stop a ‘monstrous killing spree of the town citizens’ and ‘solve a supernatural mystery that affected her family twenty-five years ago’. The schedule sounds quite packed and hectic for grown-up Wednesday, but still interesting enough to entice curiosity among fans of the Addams Family. Watching her on a show centered around her life only would be certainly interesting, as the plot seems to deviate from the usual ones from the previous movies. Would she feel different now that she’s aged? Would she keep her sociopathic tendencies or shed them to mingle more easily with the rest of her future classmates at school? If she did, then she wouldn’t stand out anymore. Her dark personality has always been what made her so unique despite her young age, so getting rid of it would turn Wednesday Addams into… an ordinary teen.
The new challenge of this Netflix series rests on the quality of the plot and Jenna Ortega’s acting as Wednesday. Even though it would make people curious as to see how she’d navigate through life as a high school student on her own, they’d probably wonder if her mindset would eventually change to adapt to her new environment; as she’d spend a lot of time at her new school, surely Wednesday would begin to show signs of change. Splitting her time between her home and school has been shown to have an impact on her, as seen in the 2019 animated movie The Addams Family: Wednesday first came back home from a day at the mall with Parker, Margaux Needler’s neglected daughter, with a bright pink unicorn hair clip on. The stark contrast between Parker and Wednesday was so striking that it was a no-brainer when they became friends. That little bit of rebellion against their family’s influence from the favorite gothic girl was quite… unexpected and definitely surprising to say the least, because Wednesday loves her family so much that her running away and leaving them is extremely unlikely. Curiosity about the world outside of her family home is expected and comprehensible, but running away from them?
Was it a contradiction her character truly needed? Seeing her act this way was actually surprising, because her decision to leave her beloved family behind and giving in to her sudden rebellious side might have been too much. Her love for her family is unconditional, so the idea of Wednesday just leaving home—her safe haven—was quite contradictory. Wednesday’s dark personality is her essence to the core, which is what attracted fans to her like a moth to a flame. But since it’s also been shown and proven that she loves her family too much to abandon them, the twist in the 2019 animated movie is even more shocking. After having watched all adaptations featuring the Addams Family, is it possible to believe that Wednesday would willingly abandon her family?
With all this in mind, it begs the question as to how this new Netflix show will portray Wednesday as a teen. Especially as a student in an environment she might be more familiar with. If Nevermore Academy truly is the same high school described and mentioned in the WEBTOON Nevermore and the school Wednesday will attend or a similar one, then Wednesday wouldn’t have any problem being herself. She’d fit right in. The supernatural theme of Nevermore fits more with the Addams Family’s nature and quirks than any normal high school. Wednesday would probably be able to bloom, nurtured by the teachings of Nevermore Academy, and her appeal as a teen might also help her gain new fans.
Who knows? The Netflix series will just have to come out so people can watch and judge.
What do you think? Leave a comment.